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Helping Hands at ISK, Enabling the Future

By Maciej Sudra and Denzil Mackrory
Helping Hands at ISK, Enabling the Future

Hand Out is a project led by a group of ISK students who use 3D printing technologies to create mechanical prosthetic hands for individuals who need them in underprivileged communities. The club is part of a larger global network known as Enabling the Future (ENABLE). Member groups of this network, which are set up in different locations worldwide, are known as chapters. In early 2017, we 3D-printed our first prototype prosthetic hand and shared it with engineers at ENABLE, resulting in our club becoming the first and currently only ENABLE chapter in East Africa. Recently, Hand Out joined another service club, Operation Smile, on a service learning field trip to CURE Kijabe Paediatric Hospital. During the trip, students visited the prosthetic engineering department—one of the only ones in Kenya—where they were able to show some of their prosthetic prototypes to experts in the field and learn more about the needs and challenges faced by the hospital and its patients. Over the course of the visit, the club learned about Paul, a five-year-old boy from Nyeri, who tragically lost his hand in an accident involving farming machinery. The experts at CURE Kijabe referred Paul as a possible candidate for a Hand Out prosthetic hand. The Hand Out club arranged for Paul to come from Nyeri to visit us at ISK, accompanied by his mother Beatrice, and established that he could be supplied with an elbow-powered prosthetic. In order to print the correct-sized prosthetic, measurements were taken using a measuring tape, a 3D scan, and scaled photographs of his arm. In addition, a cast of the limb was taken, enabling the students to take further measurements and test printed products against a life-sized model without Paul having to make frequent trips to ISK. Paul then had an opportunity to choose the colors for his new hand. After some lengthy deliberation, he chose a combination of red, yellow, and blue—great bright colors for a little boy! Hand Out is now embarking on the construction and customization of the 3D printed hand for Paul. Over the next few weeks, ISK students will be printing out all the parts needed to construct the prosthetic. They will then assemble the arm and ensure it fits the measurement constraints and the mold taken. Paul will then have to come back for a fitting and a training session on how best to use the arm and, if all goes to plan, Paul will leave with a functioning prosthetic. Since Paul is young and growing quickly, he will have to come back for regular fittings and updates for the prosthetic. Here, the true benefit of 3D printing is apparent. Students can continually customize the prosthetic to match Paul’s growth rate. Furthermore, this can be done at a cost of only US$30–US$50 per prosthetic hand, compared to the US$1,200 Paul was quoted from the hospital. Hand Out is committed to a lifelong partnership with Paul, therefore it is imperative that the club continue to grow and maintain active members. If you are inspired by Paul’s story and would like more information about both the club and Paul’s journey, please visit our website Maciej Sudra is Design Teacher and Denzil Mackrory is Physics Teacher at ISK.

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